Ilitch School faculty members publish key research on women in Michigan business leadership

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November 08, 2017

On Nov. 7 at a special event in Detroit, Inforum Michigan released the 2017 Women’s Leadership Report, an in-depth analysis of the status of women at the highest levels of governance and leadership in Michigan’s largest 100 publicly traded companies. The report is a collaborative initiative between Inforum and the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University.

The report, produced by the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University, is being released today at a luncheon at the Detroit Marriott and is available online.

"There are some top performers in our study – the companies with the most women board members are General Motors, with five women who comprise 45 percent of the board; and Kellogg, whose five women directors represent 38 percent of its board. Companies with four women directors are Herman Miller, CMS Energy and Steelcase,” said Associate Dean Toni Somers, who co-authored the report with Sheri Perelli, a management professor, and Inforum leaders. 

Public awareness and concern about the lack of gender diversity and inclusion in public companies have gained steam in recent years, particularly among shareholders, institutional investors and employees. In some countries, that concern has spawned mandatory quotas for women on the boards of publicly traded firms. In the U.S., it has influenced many companies to voluntarily increase the presence of women in top leadership roles.

Since 2003, Inforum has tracked those changes documenting the status of women directors, executive officers and top-compensated executives at two-year intervals. The 2017 report updates gender diversity over the last two years, and presents and interprets longer range changes in women’s share of board seats and top leadership roles over a 10-year span.

This year’s research shows incremental gains achieved by women as public company directors and officers between 2007 and 2017. However, the gender gap at the highest levels of leadership in our largest companies persists.

The report also highlights strategies some companies have used to make their boards and executive suites more diverse and offers insight into how more progress can be made.

“While we are encouraged by the increase of women on the boards of several Fortune 500 companies over the last decade,” Perelli said, “that hasn’t moved the needle much for women overall. They remain vastly underrepresented at the highest levels of leadership in the overwhelming majority of Michigan companies, nearly 90 percent of which have no or only a symbolic representation of one or two women on their boards or in their C-suites.”

Click here to read the full report.

About the Mike Ilitch School of Business
The Wayne State University Mike Ilitch School of Business prepares students for challenging and rewarding careers, advances the boundaries of scholarly and practitioner knowledge, and enhances the economic vitality of the city of Detroit, the state of Michigan and beyond through its programs, research and community engagement. Established in 1946, the business school was renamed in 2015 in recognition of a $40 million gift from Mike and Marian Ilitch. Thanks to this lead investment, a new state-of-the-art building is slated to open in the heart of the District Detroit in 2018, and entrepreneurial programming and collaboration with city businesses are expanding. For more information, visit

Steven Townsend, Director of Marketing
(313) 577-0202

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